By Shanthi Cheriyan:
Rahul was one of the toppers in his class, he scored top grades in most of the subjects and was clearly labeled as an IIT product by his teachers. But sadly, he didn’t qualify the test. What failed? He? Or the educational system that trained him?
Rahul is just a typical example of thousands of students out there who are part of the Indian educational system, often called the rat race, which focuses not on learning but becomes a competition of students and teachers to score higher grades. The only learning the system imparts is that of the ability to mug up the curriculum, termed as “rote learning”. End result? A group of students who have scored anywhere from 90 to 100 but has no understanding of the subject. There is even an ad by a prominent health drink, where parents fight to give their child the ‘laddu’ for getting top grades in the class, which apparently that health drink will help achieve.
Grading system is an initiative brought forth by the government with the prior aim of motivating students. But sadly, it seems to have done more harm than good. It has so altered our learning system that students are more focused on scoring high grade for examinations rather than actually being interested in gaining knowledge through practical learning.
I don’t need to state any facts or do any research to prove this. It is quite clear if we observe the students who graduate from various universities and colleges. According to a report in the Fair Observer, there are about 621 universities and 27468 colleges in India as of 2012. Thousands of engineers graduate from various colleges all over India, probably one of the largest numbers in the world. But we still lag behind in terms of technological advancements and innovations.
A typical image of a classroom still remains that of a professor walking in, marking attendance, delivering lectures while the students copy it down, mug up and vomit the same during exams. If you have the ability to mug up and recall whatever you have learned, you become a bright student. Practical knowledge and analytical skills seems to have very little importance in our educational system.
The first thing that any organization that you go to work for asks is, to ‘unlearn what you have learned’. What is the use of such education? Why would you want to waste your parents’ money if the only thing it can buy you is a degree and not practical knowledge?
In a study, it was found that students who were told they would be graded on how well they learn a social studies lesson found it more difficult to understand the content than the students who were told that they would not be graded. (Grolnick and Ryan, 1987)
It is high time that we change our focus from grade oriented to learning oriented education. We need to give our students better reasons for education other than grades. Apart from an awareness that we do not need grades to engage students and to motivate them to learn. Research has shown that when the curriculum is engaging, that is, teaching is made more interactive and students are given more practical classes and hands-on experience, students who are not graded perform at the same level as students who are graded. (Moeller and Reschke, 1993)
The Indian government and education ministry should take a wide look at the current state and make holistic changes to the system which can, in the coming years and decades, churn out better educated, learned and better prepared individuals.